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What’s so good about the government?

October 11, 2010

Americans don’t like government, but we like a lot of what government does for us. That’s the gist of a new study by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. This article caught my eye in part because I’ve just wrapped up editing FCNL’s September/October newsletter, which makes much the same point.

A couple of things have stuck with me from my work with Ruth on the newsletter and now reinforced in this study. I’ll offer these collection of thoughts, not having drawn any firm conclusions from it myself yet.

  • We’re having a debate right now that our country has had many, many times before. Remember Jefferson vs Hamilton? Republicans vs Federalists? Roosevelt and the New Deal?Every few generations, people in the U.S. seem to need to revisit the question of how strong government should be.
  • It’s an old debate historically, but for many of us who only know about the Depression and the Great Society through stories from our parents and grandparents, it’s new. I’ve grown up in a country where the government did lots of things, like provide health care for people who can’t afford it, and I’ve just thought that was how things worked. Realizing that this kind of assistance isn’t some foreordained truth of what our government does calls into a question a lot of assumptions about what it means to live in this community called the United States.
  • The human mind is a place of such contradiction. Logically, how does it make sense that we get excited about the results of government and simultaneously hold our noses and begrudgingly accept the idea of government itself? Yet there’s so much more to how we think than logic. That’s why communications is fun–if all it took was reasoned arguments, there wouldn’t be much challenge!

What do you think about government? What do think about the specific government programs that have touched your life?

2 Comments
  1. Mark Grantham permalink
    October 11, 2010 1:22 pm

    The American form of Government provides the citizen’s a fair amount of comfort, providing they agree with, and go along with what the “Government” says. We all take advantage of the many programs that are made available to us: public education, highways, ambulances and the police force, but we do not like to be billed or told what to do.
    The size of Government is in the news recently, and many candidates are using this as a way to Grandstand. How many of us have parents’ that are living on their small Social Security check? How many of us want to be “taken care of”, but only on our terms?
    We cannot have our cake and eat it too! Try living on what the “Government” gives a person to live, it is next to impossible! Currently I am on Long term Disability, due to a brain tumor. My Food Stamps come to $16 a month, yes, I said $16 a month! At the end og the month, I am feeling very lucky when I have $1-3 in the bank. I never wanted to be rich, but I want to live.
    Oh yeah, the “Government” is made up of People, and we are People.
    Vote for the candidate you want to make a change! But, VOTE!

  2. Ellen N. Duell permalink
    October 11, 2010 4:56 pm

    If we keep government really “of the people, by the people, and for the people” then it is a good vehicle for doing things that are needed, things we cannot do alone–for instance, maintaining our transportation systems fairly; buying “green” land belts to keep greenways for a healthy natural surrounding; deciding how we will live well in our communities, certain rules, and finding ways to respond when the rules aren’t kept, as when there is crime. But we must have real checks and balances, as planned by the framers of the U.S. Constitution.

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